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Manly appeared to be controlling both sides of the ruck in an opening stanza despite three tries being disallowed following obstruction rulings, the Sea Eagles being denied in the 7th and 25th minutes and the Cowboys being denied in in the 21st minute. Manly dominated possession before being rewarded a penalty goal in the 13th minute.
With in-form Manly hooker Michael Monaghan sideline with concussion, Sea Eagles fullback Brett Stewart finally crossed after selling a dummy and diving over in the 30th minute.
The Cowboys struck back on the stroke of half time through forward Jacob Lillyman to post a 6-all score line and put the North Queenslanders back in the hunt.
The second half saw the return of Monaghan who had an immediate impact before back rower Anthony Watmough scored folowing a tap penalty from 10 metres out.
Manly centre Steve Bell was next to score in the 53rd minute before half back Matt Orford slotted a penalty goal in the 60th minute to give the Sea Eagles an 18-6 lead.
The match was put out of the Cowboys reach six minutes later after Monaghan and Watmough combined to see centre Jamie Lyon over the line.
With the match won and lost, lock forward Luke Williamson scored in 75th minute to put the icing on a comprehensive second half display for the Sea Eagles.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 28 Tries: Brett Stewart, Anthony Watmough, Steven Bell, Jamie Lyon, Luke Williamson Goals: Matt Orford (4/7) North Queensland Cowboys 6 Tries: Jacob Lillyman Goals: Johnathan Thurston (1/1)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles) 2 Points: Michael Monaghan (Sea Eagles) 1 Point: Ray Cashmere (Cowboys)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary TEAMS (as named 18/9/07): SEA EAGLES: Brett Stewart, Michael Robertson, Steve Bell, Steve Matai, Chris Hicks, Jamie Lyon, Matt Orford (c), Jason King, Michael Monaghan, Brent Kite, Anthony Watmough, Glenn Stewart, Luke Williamson Interchange: Travis Burns, Glenn Hall, Mark Bryant, Steve Menzies, Matt Ballin, Jack Afamasaga, Adam Cuthbertson COWBOYS: Matt Bowen, Ty Williams, Ashley Graham, Paul Bowman, Ben Farrar, Justin Smith, Johnathan Thurston (c), Matt Scott, Aaron Payne, Carl Webb, Sam Faust, Matthew Bartlett, Mark Henry Interchange: David Faiumu, Jason Smith, Jacob Lillyman, Ray Cashmere, Neil Sweeney, Ben Vaeau (two to be omitted)
Welcome aboard for the first NRL grand final qualifier. A packed house at the SFS and a fine night in Sydney.
TEAM CHANGES: Cowboys: Most notably Carl Webb and Jason Smith are out. Matt Bowen is in but is a carrying a leg injury. Sea Eagles: Travis Burns omitted.
Teams on the field... Cowboys to kick off... KICK OFF!
4 min: Intense opening few minutes before Manly make a bust from halfway through hooker Michael Monaghan. Matt Orford in support charges forwward before the ball is knocked out by the tackler Matty Bowen.
7 min: Possible TRY to Manly. Video ref looking at obstruction. VERDICT: NO TRY and penalty to the Cowboys.
11 min: 40/20 to the Sea Eagles. Michael Monaghan the kicker.
13 min: PENALTY GOAL Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Matt Orford draws first blood with a goal from right in front. Follows penalty against Cowboys in the play-the-ball, the tackler having a second push. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 2-0
16 min: INJURY - Manly's Michael Monaghan is assisted from the field with concussion.
21 min: Possible TRY to Cowboys. Video ref looking at obstruction. VERDICT: NO TRY and penalty to Sea Eagles. Cowboys missing out but were on the attack against the run of play - the Sea Eagles holding the upper hand in the opening 20 minutes.
25 min: Possible TRY to Sea Eagles with Brett Stewart crossing. Video ref looking at obstruction. VERDICT: NO TRY and penalty to the Cowboys.
30 min: TRY Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Stewart dummies on the last tackle and dives over 5m in from touch. Follows sustained pressure from Manly and has been a long time coming. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford unsuccessful. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 6-0
35 min: Cowboys on the attack with some quick hands on the last tackle, ball knocked down by Manly. Cowboys getting repeat sets at the line, but lose the ball in the third set.
40 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Jacob Lillyman stretches out to score next to the sticks after five eighth Justin Smith offloads close to the line. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. 6 all
Half time: 6 all Cowboys defying the stats here. Manly have been dominating in the metres gained department and have been enjoying over 55% possession in the first half. But the Cowboys have been hanging in there and have been rewarded with an equaliser on the stroke of half time. This match too close to call.
Players coming back and a dazed looking Michael Monaghan has been allowed back onto the field for the Sea Eagles.
Second half underway....
41 min: Manly centre Steve Matai makes a bust but clutches at his shoulder afterwards. Matai another player carrying an injury.
44 min: TRY Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Backrower Anthony Watmough takes a tap penalty from 10m and simply runs forward to score a very soft try. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford 10m wide of the goal is successful. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 12-6
46 min: NO TRY. Cowboys counter attack with Justin Smith falling short on the last tackle.
53 min: TRY Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Centre Steve Bell scores on the end of big overlap out wide following an attacking raid up the middle - a tired looking Cowboys defence compressed in the lead up. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford unsuccessful. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 16-6
54 min: INJURY - Manly's Steve Matai is assisted from the field and looks unlikely to return.
60 min: Manly on the attack following a bust and then get a penalty. Johnathan Thurston blowing up.
Monaghan very involved since coming back on.
62 min: PENALTY GOAL Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Orford puts the Sea Eagles up by 12, hitting the upright and going in. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 18-6
66 min: Cowboys get a penalty from close range and take the tap. Manly offside. In the next play a knock on against Manly sees Cowboys get another set at the line.
68 min: A one of one strip with Orford stealing the ball from Thurston less than a metre out from the goal line. Manly get a penalty in the next ruck and the pressure is off.
71 min: TRY Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Centre Jamie Lyon scores out wide following some slick passing across the line from Monaghan and Watmough. That'll be enough to carry them into the grand final. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford hits the post and is unsuccessful. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 22-6
75 min: TRY Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Luke Williamson scores 15m in from touch after winger Michael Bani makes a barging run out wide. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford successful. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 28-6
Full time: Manly Sea Eagles 28 defeat NQ Cowboys 6 Sea Eagles finishing strongly with 63% possession. They now progress to the grand final and will take on the winner of tomorrow's Storm v Eels match.